The original complex included a church, a hospital, a convent, an orphanage and a gathering place for girls without a dowry. The Real Casa dell’Annunziata in Naples, still located today in the Forcella district in the historical centre of the city, was built in 1304 at the behest of Nicolò and Jacopo Scondito, two Neapolitan noblemen who dedicated the work to the Annunciation of the Virgin. Queen Sancia of Majorca, wife of Robert of Anjou, wished to expand the building by adding the church and hospital, obtaining from the brothers the right of patronage over the whole complex. The change of ownership was ratified in 1343 by Cardinal Giovanni III Orsini, Archbishop of Naples.
Shortly after, the sovereign decided to construct within an access point on the external wall of the hospital, a wooden and revolving wheel, known as “Rota dei Gittatelli”, which was used to accept newborns who were abandoned by their relatives usually at night. Some of them were left with a bag around their neck containing a small saint, a rosary, a medallion or a card with a note regarding their true personal data. Once inside the structure, they were washed and baptised. From that moment on they became the so-called “esposti”, hence the surname Esposito that is very common in Naples, and became part of the orphanage of the Real Casa dell’Annunziata. Even today, it is possible to view the registers of the Archivio degli Esposti, containing the dates and times of arrival, the age, the features and the few objects with which they were left, thanks to which you can reconstruct the history of thousands of Neapolitan children. The contraption was abolished in 1875.
Today, the Annunziata is a place with a unique and particular fascination where motherhood, solidarity and culture unite. In the Ospedale dell’Annunziata, only two departments remained operational, but although the healthcare operations were reduced, those working in healthcare and other areas continued to strive to provide the best possible assistance to the small patients.